What I Gained From Going Facebook Free

At the end of July (and the beginning of my digital sabbatical), I took a family vacation to Mexico. I decided that this should be a time of rest and refreshment, not obsessively checking social media. I wanted to focus on the sights and sounds around me, rather than checking in on people halfway around the world. This was my time for me.

  • Because I unplugged from the virtual, I was free to experience the actual. Stepping away from facebook has helped me to spend time taking in my surroundings and experiences. I have more time to experience life  when I m not cyberstalking my friends. My mind is more engaged in what I am doing when I don’t have the details of other people’s lives occupying my attention. Rather than  reading about other peoples’ lives, I had the time and focus to live my own life.
  • Living facebook free has helped my mood. I’ve heard news about “facebook depression”, a depression caused by reading about how great everyone else’s life is. It is most common among teens. However, I am not a teen and I have experienced this to some degree. By not interacting with facebook as much, I am not able to compare myself to others in that way. When I’m not comparing, my life does not look so bad.
  • Less facebook, less anxiety. Believe it or not, I feel obligated to read every status update. If I only check facebook three times a day, then I go back and read every status since I last checked. This is a huge undertaking (and a huge waste of time). Not having to worry about “keeping up” was liberating. I learned that life does go on even when you miss status updates.

Does this mean that I will never use facebook again? Not at all. I have contact with people that I love and enjoy reading their comments. However, I will be much more mindful about how much time I spend on facebook. I will be careful to live my own life, and spend less time comparing it to the lives of others. I will make sure that my presence offline is richer than my presence online. I will focus on living life, not just reading about it.

Walking the Walk

I am faced a crisis, and I need to sell stuff. This is very difficult for me. Giving away clothes is one thing. Getting rid of furniture is another. Clothes don’t cost that much compared to, say, an armoire, or a shisham wood book case with glass doors. Parting with that stuff requires a different level of commitment.

I have decided to sell my TV and my prized bookcase (with doors!). From a financial standpoint, this is my only option. And even though I am an aspiring minimalist, I am still hesitant to sell my stuff.

Yes, it’s only a TV and a bookcase, but I somehow have an emotional attachment to this stuff. I somehow came to love  my bookcase. I remember buying it. I paid good money for it. It held my precious books.

I don’t have the same attachment to my TV, but I worry that I may want a TV in some point. Will I really be able to live a TV-free existence? What about the Food Network?!

Getting rid of my stuff is also difficult because I also have the “what if…” syndrome. What if I need this in the future? What if I regret getting rid of this? What if I have to purchase another one — won’t that be wasting money?

At this point, I have no answers to these questions. I guess all this is a part of the purging process. I suppose that everyone has to face these questions, as well as the uncertainty that comes along with them. But other minimalists seem to find a way to push through.

This is the place where I put all my minimalist values into practice. But in this process, I realize that believing and doing are two different things. Just because I believe in simple living doesn’t mean that it’s easy to get rid of my things. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done.  Craigslist, here I come.

Setbacks on the Path to Minimalism

Recently I had a setback on my journey to minimalism. I had an upcoming interview, and I purchased three interview suits. I only need two. So why did I purchase three? I purchased three with the intention to return one. I don’t know which one. But my consumerist family  urges me to keep all three. They don’t know about my decision to pursue minimalism just yet. That is a discussion I am not ready to have. Anyway, I failed as a minimalist that day.

Part of me felt like I had no options. I had to have two looks for my two day interview. While this is true, I did have some options:

  • Get only one suit and change the shirt. In theory, I could have worn the same suit on both days and used a different shirt to make it look like two suits. God forbid that anything should happen to that one suit (like a ketchup stain, or whatever).
  • Make a decision. I could determine which suits I would actually need for the interview and return the other.
  • Check alternate sources.I could have checked the thrift stores, or consignment boutiques for a suit to wear.

In my defense, I had NO suits that I could wear to the interview. I need at least one suit. But do I need three? Probably not. Not now, at least.

What to do when you genuinely need something?

  • Focus. What is it that you really need? Don’t get caught up in indecision. Think carefully about what you need and how much. Make purchasing decisions based on this.
  • Don’t get caught up in cute. Part of the reason that I got three suits is that I got all caught in how cute I looked in all of them. I need to remember that I will look cute in lots of things. Cute is not need. Not all cute items should be purchased.
  • Ignore the sales associates. Of course they will encourage you to buy more, more, more. That’s their job. We must ignore their messages, and stick to what we really need.

Hopefully we will all learn from this failure today.

*I did have a small victory today, though. I returned one suit. I also did not make any purchases from the Lancome counter, even though they have a gift with purchase. I was temped, but I kept on going. I guess today wasn’t a total failure…

The Minimalist Vacation – Insights from Playa del Carmen

At the end of July, I spent a week in Playa del Carmen with my family. This vacation was truly minimalist. During this time, there was no facebooking and no tweeting. There was minimal internet usage. There was a ton of time for myself and my family.

Our typical day consisted of a light breakfast followed by a dip in the pool. Then we had a nice lunch and some time in the pool or on the beach. After the afternoon swim, we would prepare dinner and wither relax or swim until bedtime. Our schedule wasn’t crammed with excursions to this place or that one. There was time to write and to just sit and watch the waves crash on the beach.

There was also minimal shopping. Partially due to my minimal budget, but partially because I did not want to spend my vacation in stores. I wanted to spend it on the beach.

By going facebook free and refusing to fill my vacation with endless excursions, I had time to live in the moment. I will remember those lunches on the beachfront patio forever. Those memories mean more to me than the few souvenirs that I purchased. The experiences made the vacation, not the shopping. I had lunch on our beachfront patio. I took boat ride. I swam in the ocean. I got lost in my book right there on the beach. I took a long walk with a 7 year old. I wrote in my journal every night. These are the things that I accomplished on this trip. And these things are enough.

Going Digital

Two days ago, I went digital. Yup, I did it. And I am sooooo glad that I did.

My digital transformation came in two parts (thus far). First, I purchased my first two eBooks. I have a tendency to collect things, and books are certainly no exception. Being a professional student only compounds the problem. I am certainly committed to being a lifelong learner. But I am also committed to living simply and downsizing. So I decided to go digital, and I started my digital revolution with my recreational reading. It’s only two books, but as I continue to read, I’ll save myself a lot of clutter.

Second, I purchased educational bible software. I purchased, in essence, a digital library that contains many resources. This purchase was key because it enables me to continue my educational pursuits without accumulating a lot of clutter and taking up a lot of space. It also saves me the expense of having to buy each book separately.

As I write this I feel the power surging through me for taking this step. I understand that this step, alone, may not seem that significant. But to me, it’s huge. It’s huge because taking my library and my studies digital is very symbolic. It symbolizes freedom. It represents having one less thing tethering me to this spot and to this life. It represents continuity. My actions are in alignment with my mission to downsize. For me, that’s very affirming. Perhaps more importantly, it symbolizes a step on the path toward where I want to be. This step, combined with many others, will take me to the life of my dreams. That, my friends,is huge. It’s monumental. It’s powerful.

Less Stuff, More Focus

I am at a point in my life where I need to focus. Rather than accumulating more things, it’s time that I work toward building a life that I enjoy. This will require dedication and focus.

As usual, stuff is threatening to steal my focus. Just this weekend, I was incredibly tempted to purchase a pair of shoes just because they were on clearance. It’s the never-ending lust for more, more, more. This is the reason that I embraced minimalism anyway — to escape the consumerism that held me captive for so long.

So now it’s time to get my focus straight. My focus is not on accumulating more things (even if they are on clearance). Instead, I will turn my focus to the life that I want to live. That begins with some serious soul-searching, because I do not know what my ideal life looks like. I don’t even know what my purpose in life is. This is where my focus should be, rather than buying yet another pair of shoes.

At this point in my life, I am like a bouncing ball — all over the place. I have some background in Biology, so I am looking for lab jobs. I have some administrative and clerical experience, so I look for administrative jobs. I have a passion for social justice, so I look for jobs at nonprofits. I am looking everywhere, with no real idea of what I want. This has to change.

According to Good to Great, by Jim Collins, I have to focus on doing the thing I do best in the world in order to have great success. I don’t even know what that is! But I do know that rather than bouncing all over the place, I need laser-like precision about what my strengths and priorities are. This will never happen if I am so busy shopping online and in the mall every day. I can’t focus on finding my passion if I am constantly having to maintain and organize an ever-growing mountain of stuff.

And why should stuff occupy such a huge amount of my time and energy? Stuff is not helping me determine my strengths and passions. Stuff is not helping me to be successful in life. Stuff does not make me successful, nor does it indicate that I am successful. Stuff just takes up space.

As I contemplate the type of life I would like to live, I have been consulting some great websites and I would like to share some of them with you:

The Simpler Life

Reading for Your Success

The Art of Non-conformity

Advanced Riskology

Suzannah Scully’s blog

Similarly, If you know of any websites that may be helpful, please leave the link and your thoughts in the comments section.

Minimalist Moving – Hindsight

Last month, I picked up my life and moved 650 miles. My things were packed and I was ready to move. Before packing, I consulted a number of moving websites. Most of them suggested that I go through each room and determine what I didn’t need/want. The rest should be packed room by room.

I followed those directions pretty well. I took about nine bags of stuff to the Goodwill. I packed the rest and put it into storage. For almost two months, I stayed with a friend. Getting ready for the next leg of the move, I went to storage to make sure I had some summer clothes. I packed a small suitcase worth, and I was amazed by how many bins and boxes of clothes I had in storage. Yet, I’ve been living without all these things for nearly two months. Do I really need them at all?

The packing suggestions worked well — for the average lifestyle. Since going minimalist, however, that method left me with too much. Way too much. So, given my recent moving experience, I would drastically change my packing methods. My method would look something like this:

  • Take note of the fire essentials. I’m talking about the things that you would want to have in case of a fire: your computer, your backup drive, important papers/files, anything very sentimental…  Make a list of these things, or even gather them all in one place.
  • Get the necessities. If you were going in vacation for a month in summer, which clothes would you take? What about winter? Gather the essential items from your closet and dressers together. Which books would you take?  Evaluate each room to see which items are necessities. Gather or pack those items.
  • A little comfort. This step is optional. If you’re going radical, you may want to skip this step. But for the rest of us, a little comfort is good. Treat yourself to some small comforts. Perhaps an extra pair of shoes. Maybe an extra jacket. But not twelve jackets. I’m thinking of a few extra things that will make you a little more comfortable.
  • Be practical.  What needs to be saved? If you are a professional student, like me, you may have some textbooks that you need to save. If you are a chef, you probably have kitchen gadgets you need for your business. I am not suggesting that anyone throw away their hard earned money by tossing out things that they really need. I simply suggest evaluating each addition item packed. What do you need the item for? Will you use it in the future?
  • Take a good, hard look at the rest. You have already determined that all the rest is non-essential for survival. The rest is non-essential for a bit of comfort. The things that are impractical to throw away or donate are already gathered. What happens to the rest? Now is the time to go through and determine what needs to be thrown out, what needs to be donated, and what you really can’t part with. If you aren’t sure, you can make a pile for things you’re not sure about. Come back to those later. Donate or toss the rest.

I realize that my moving method is probably a little unorthodox.  It is good for downsizing, though. I wish that I had discovered minimalism before I packed my overstuffed apartment. I would have gone about it in this manner. And I wouldn’t have boxes and bins of stuff that I probably have no use for.

All of this crap was moved and stored along with my furniture (I have not reached the stage of downsizing furniture-wise). My next move will be much, much smaller, not only because I have a new packing method, but because I will have a lot less stuff.  That’s my two cents.